Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Black Rainbow Analysis

In Wendt’s novel Black Rainbow, his protagonist struggles within his quest to find a true identity. Throughout the majority of the text, the protagonist is left name-less, striving to establish an identity separate from the characters of 20th century films or novels in which he associates. After his confrontation with the President of the Tribunal, Eric learns of his Tangata Moni ancestry. Wendt writes, “I became more addicted to the work of Tangata Maori writers, my ancestors, finding them the identity and past I’d been denied. A past which spoke of Tangata Maori resistance to otherworlder occupation, racism and arrogance” (244). In this moment, Eric feels as though he has succeeded within his Game of Life, finding a concrete identity. However, Wendt urges readers to take a deeper look at what things are central to creating identity. Although Eric may have found comfort in an ethnic identity, he never establishes an individual identity.

As Wendt once said: “In a major way all creative writers are historians. The most revealing and meaningful histories about a people are the stories, poems, myths, plays and novels written by those people about themselves.” The author praises the need for ethnic stories to be shared. For this reason, once Eric finds his roots in the Tangata Maori ancestry, he becomes fixated with the tales of his race. Wendt writes, “The otherworlders hadn’t destroyed them. I thought of Maungakikie, the dead volcano in the heart of the city. The atua were still there too, and I was walking in their footsteps” (190). Eric finds comfort in his shared back-story filled with immense obstacles and sorrow. In his eyes, he has finally found an identity and “walks in their footsteps.”

With his new identity to latch on to, the Tangata Moni believes he practices his first act of free will when he chooses permanent death at the conclusion of his story. However, after Eric makes his decision, Wendt provides alternative endings of Eric’s story for his readers to pick and choose from. In this moment, Wendt reveals what it truly means to have an identity. Eric may identify with the shared back-story of his ethnic roots, but he never establishes himself as an ethnic individual. Although the protagonist tries to write his own ending to his story, he fails. Through Eric’s identity struggle, the reader walks away from the novel valuing ethnic individualism. As individuals, we must value both our ethnic and individual identity. In Wendt’s futuristic setting, the government attempts to create a Utopia by eliminating all ethnic back-stories and dictating each individual’s “identity.” At the conclusion of his text, Wendt wants his readers to write their own story while never forgetting their ethnic identity. Black Rainbow urges readers to establish themselves as ethnic individuals and strive for social justice in today’s world by exercising their free will.

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